Review: Dick Whittington & His Meerkat

By December 13, 2015

Theatre & Dance. York.

AJ Powell as the Meerkat, courtesy of York Theatre Royal

AJ Powell as the Meerkat, courtesy of York Theatre Royal

Following the scintillating success of this year’s In Fog & Falling Snow and The Railway Children, York Theatre Royal take on the rags-to-riches story of Dick Whittington, once more at the Signal Box Theatre in the National Railway Museum. The epic production benefits from the indulgent presence of sexy bombshell Suzy Cooper as Charlotte Cheapskate, replete with fishnet stockings and stilettos and more than the occasional flash of her purple panties.

But AJ Powell is the real star of the show, and a fave with the kids, as Mr Finickerty, Dick’s meerkat sidekick. Of course, panto veterans Berwick Kaler and Martin Barrass make up a fantastic double act with Barrass having to combine his roles as the dame’s son Willy and Mayor Cheapskate too. There is a constant stream of timing and technical mishaps but this is taken in its stride as part of the madcap proceedings to the audience’s delight.

Evil king rat Herman Vermin is played with venomous veracity by David Leonard, a mean machine in his long leather coat, while his aide the ingénue archaeologist Ed Stone is given a great treatment by Harry Hughes. The set – in traverse divided by a huge rail track – is simply to die for, and the costumes are almost a character in themselves, really coming into their own when the action turns to sunny Spain.

Whilst the vocal performances are deliberately understated, Elliott Styche as MD really carries the show with a wide variety of musical numbers. And Grace Harrington’s choreography has to be the strongest panto-tastic performance of the year, especially given the difficulties of dancing in traverse too. So the winning team of directors Berwick Kaler and Damian Cruden have excelled themselves again in this world-famous traditional show that lightens our hearts and reveals our inner child.

Reviewed on 12th December 2015 by Rich Jevons. Runs until 24th January 2016, National Railway Museum, York.